Ensuring Success for Students in Washington Charters
“A few months ago, I became the first person in my family to graduate from college when I walked across the stage to get my diploma from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. The path that led to that point—graduating from a college where many of my classmates came from affluent and privileged backgrounds—goes back to my decision to attend Ánimo Jackie Robinson Charter High School in Los Angeles, a Green Dot Public School. I was always hungry to learn, but Green Dot helped build the bridge to college and graduation.
This month, Green Dot Public Schools was one of nine public charter schools to open their doors to students in Washington State, all giving students like me a choice in public education.
The traditional high schools in my neighborhood in L.A. did not have the best reputations. My friends who went to them didn’t seem like they were being engaged. But Green Dot schools were smaller. Every teacher knew who you were and what you could do. They cared for me and helped me grow as a person. They are my mentors to this day.
In middle school, I didn’t know what preparing for college meant. But Green Dot offered the help, the guidance, the resources, and the moral support. They taught me what the SAT was and how to prepare. They exposed me to what college was and what you needed to do to get there. I had always thought I would go to college in southern California, but Green Dot introduced me to Whitman and flew me up there. I loved it.
I’ve seen Waiting For Superman, and I’m one of those kids. Green Dot helped me beat the odds. I know that some people in Washington think charter schools are risky. But Green Dot will put students in an environment where teachers know them, care about them, support them, and teach them. Take a chance on that.”
Eddy wrote this blog post last month to highlight the positive influence that Green Dot has had on his life and his academic opportunities. Since then, the potential for Green Dot to have such a profound impact on students has been challenged dramatically.
Washington Charters Ruled Unconstituational
On Friday, September 4th, the Washington State Supreme Court made the extraordinary decision that is was unconstitutional for the schools—free to all and directly accountable to parents and authorizers—to receive public revenue. The decision and its timing were a great surprise. A ruling by King County Superior Court in December 2013 had determined that charter schools were public schools, thus clearing the way for the State Charter School Commission to authorize charter schools across the state. Green Dot and other charter operators moved forward with both the support of the law and the communities in which we planned to open schools.
Having deliberated for almost a year, the State Supreme Court waited until the Friday afternoon before a public holiday, three weeks into the new school year and with over 1,200 students enrolled, to announce their decision. The opinion was not based on any restrictions found in the state Constitution itself, but on a 108 year old legal precedent; a precedent written at a time when institutionalized racial and religious segregation in Washington was rampant and extending voting rights to women was still actively resisted.
It’s difficult to understand how, in the 21st century, a law born from the social and cultural norms of a century ago could compel a court to purposefully deprive predominantly low-income students and their parents of educational options. It’s equally hard to understand how the court could support the dysfunctional monopoly on public education that has resulted in Washington ranking 41st in the nation in low-income graduation rates – leading the nation for inequities in academic outcomes based on family income.
Families Need School Choice
The Washington electorate voted to approve public charter schools. The parents of 1,200 students actively chose to enroll their children in the first nine of those schools. Clearly there is a demand in the state for high-quality educational options to traditional schools. Parents want—and students deserve—public schools choice. The Supreme Court’s decision does not immediately close charter schools: Green Dot’s Destiny Middle School opened this morning as usual, continuing to focus on providing excellent instruction and learning to more than 200 6th graders.
Show your support for students like Eddy, for whom access to the personalized education found in a high-quality charter school was the primary driver to his college success.
Call on Governor Jay Inslee to hold a special session immediately to address the law and ensure there is no disruption for Washington’s charter school students.
By Marguerite Kondracke, Board Co-Chairperson for Green Dot Public Schools Washington Board of Directors
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